5 Ways Associations Can Celebrate Pride Month
With Pride Month in full swing this June, it’s important to remember that you can’t have true diversity without including LGBTQIA+ people. After all, the LGBTQIA+ community is a critical part of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
(While the exact definition can vary, LGBTQIA+ typically refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual, with the plus referring to the inclusion of more identities not explicitly mentioned.)
“Every organization, whether they know it or not, has someone working for them who is part of the LGBTQ community,” says Donté Shannon, FASAE, CAE, Association CEO at AMPED Association Management in Washington, D.C. “So it’s important for staff to know that they are valued and included in the organization’s DEI initiatives.”
One way to help the LGBTQIA+ staffers in your association feel valued is taking part in Pride. Here are five ways to celebrate:
1. Host your own Pride event.
A celebration in the office can be a great way to show support and solidarity with your LGBTQIA+ staff — just make sure you are including them in planning. “The approach is important,” Shannon says. “You shouldn’t plan anything in a vacuum. Everyone should feel like it’s something they can be a part of.”
To ensure everyone feels celebrated, seek out diverse voices among your LGBTQIA+ staff. “What organizations don’t understand is that — the same way there are different cultures within in our larger society — the same goes for inside the LGBTQ community,” Shannon says. “Black gay culture is different from white gay culture, and if you’re only hearing from one culture of voices, someone is going to feel excluded.”
If you’re unsure about who to ask on your staff, or don’t feel like you have enough feedback from diverse voices, consult people outside your association.
For the actual event, keep in mind that LGBTQIA+ staff are the focus — they should feel elevated and celebrated. Create a safe space where LGBTQIA+ people feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their stories (if they want to). Straight people shouldn’t center themselves or turn the celebration into a training session on how to be better allies. And if there are people on staff who don’t want to attend the event, don’t ostracize them, Shannon adds. “You don’t know their reason for not attending, and making them feel bad isn’t what the celebration is about,” he says.
2. Plan a group outing to an event.
Look to see if your city has a Pride parade or other types of events planned, then ask for volunteers and go together as a group. Cities like Chicago have multiple events, such as a parade and the music fest, Pride in the Park. Ask LGBTQIA+ staff members which type of event they’d prefer to attend.
3. Give a small gift to out-and-proud staffers.
If you know that there are out members on staff who would like to be celebrated during Pride, but perhaps not in front of the entire association, you could send or give them a small gift. “Something to say, ‘We appreciate you, we celebrate you, happy Pride Month,’” Shannon says. “That would be a great, intimate gesture that would go a long way.”
4. Donate to local LGBTQIA+ organizations.
The “local” part is important here, Shannon says. Large organizations like the Human Rights Campaign have access to a lot of resources, so consider donating to small, grassroots organizations that help the LGBTQIA+ people in your community, particularly marginalized identities. You can also ask staff which organizations they’d like to see supported, then let them know where you made your donation(s).
5. Create a Welcoming Environment® not just during Pride, but every day.
LGBTQIA+ people at your association should feel comfortable and valued every day, not just in June. “No one should feel like they have to assimilate into straight, white culture when they come to work,” Shannon says.
Facilitate a safe space by making sure LGBTQIA+ staff feel seen and heard. This can take myriad forms, including discussing policies they feel need to change, using inclusive language in the office and in job postings, and continuing to confront your own biases or generalizations about LGBTQIA+ people.
Association Forum has created Identity-Based Advisory Groups to provide guidance on how to advance Welcoming Environment strategies that will enrich member experiences, professional development, leadership development, cultural awareness and competency.